Buying a used SUV

I’m thinking of buying an SUV for some camping and some off roading. I already have a Honda Accord and since I’m in southern California, gas is expensive so I’d like to keep my gas prices down by keeping it. Instead of trading in the Honda, I’m thinking about buying an older SUV with cash. Does anyone have any advice on what to get? Also, any thoughts about 4WD vs 2WD?

We need more information. Have you been considering anything specific? What is your price range? What do you mean by “off roading”? What you mean by “off roading” will be a major deciding factor as to whether or not you need 4WD. If you intend to drive muddy or rocky off-road or rock crawling trails (like the Jeep Jamboree or other such get-togethers to tackle rugged trails), then you need 4WD. If your idea of off roading is more along the lines of driving on a dirt road to get to a campsite, you probably don’t need 4WD.

If your idea of off roading is dirt roads, any car based SUV will do fine. They are just cars with more ground clearance and awd option. If you really plan to go off road, plan to take a bite out of your gas bill. The real off roaders, 4Runners, xTerras and the like, aren’t especially economical. Make sure you really need off road before you consider anything but a raised car.
Genuine off road vehicles will come equipped with the appropriate drive train and stock option in oil companies. If you think an Accord is expensive to drive, truck based SUVs are much worse. I would consider an older extended cab 4wd, used pick up you could at least do double duty with as a second car you seldom use.

By off roading I mean 90% dirt roads, and 10% a little rougher terrain, nothing too crazy like Jeep Jamboree. But, at the same time, nothing to tame either.

For price range, I’m thinking around $10K or less. I’ve looked at 4Runners, but they don’t go under $10K until about 2000 or earlier. Chevy Blazers/Trailblazers, Ford Explorers seem to depreciate faster (2003-2004 models are in my price range), but I’m concerned with the quality. Are 4Runners that expensive bc they’re worth it?

Blazer’s and Explorers became incompetent off road vehicles when they stopped rolling over easily and went from truck based to car based. I have a 4Runner and it’s infinitely better off road then most car based SUVs and are one of the best at combining this off road capability and some semblance of on road handling and comfort… You pay for that combination. Used car based SUVs like RAVs , Escapes, Foresters and CRVs could handle your terrain and are more economical then a dedicated off roader.

A used Jeep Cherokee would be in your price range. The 2004 and older ones are more off road cars and easier to work on.

How reliable are jeeps? I’ve heard horror stories about transmission issues…

Not very. The older Cherokees and newer Liberty in your range are capable for your needs but beyond recommendation from this end. Most all are not very efficient either. Being both unreliable and easy to work on makes them your mechanic’s dream car.

So I went to a used car dealer today and they had already sold the 4runner there, but I test drove an Infiniti QX-4. Seemed like a decent ride, but I know nothing about the Infiniti. Anyone know how reliable it is? Or how it would do off road? Infiniti seems to be too luxury to go off road with, but it does have 4x4…

What year? Check here for information:

  1. I googled a couple different pages, they all said it was pretty reliable.

MSN Autos said there are occasional engine problems, but the are not expensive fixes. And after 12 years, you’d think they might be sorted out. How much do they want for it? Options?

I bought a 2001 Toyota Sequoia used 3 years ago and it has been a great SUV. At 90K miles it needed a timing belt job which could be why the previous owner unloaded it with 89K on the odometer. It now has 120K and is doing fine.